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Salud Pública de México

versión impresa ISSN 0036-3634


STERN, Dalia et al. Rapid review of the community-wide use of surgical masks and acute respiratory infections. Salud pública Méx [online]. 2020, vol.62, n.3, pp.319-330.  Epub 16-Mayo-2022. ISSN 0036-3634.


To assess the effectiveness of using surgical masks in community settings to reduce the probability of infection by SARS-CoV-2 or other acute viral respiratory infection, compared to not using surgical masks.

Materials and methods:

We followed the Cochrane rapid review methodology. The search strategy encompasses one academic database and pre-prints until April 1, 2020. Titles and abstracts were reviewed by one investigator. The full text review was divided among three researchers. The results were synthesized in a narrative way.


713 manuscripts were identified, of which 21 met the inclusion criteria. Of six systematic reviews, four found no reduction in the probability of transmission. Experimental home studies found no differences in the probability of contagion associated with the use of mouth masks. Only one modeling study estimated a 20% reduction in the incidence of acute respiratory disease, assuming that 10 to 50% of the population use the surgical masks correctly.


The scientific evidence is inconclusive to recommend or discourage the use of surgical masks at the population level. Considering the potential negative effects, official recommendations should await for the results of natural experiments currently occurring in countries that have recommended the use of face masks at the population level.

Palabras llave : rapid review; surgical masks; masks; acute respiratory infections.

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